“We Want More People” – Horsham Week’s Longtime Pilots Seek Younger Aviators

Published 02/12/2024, 5:01 AM EST

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Citizens of Victoria all gathered in large numbers for the annual gliding carnival, Horsham Week Gliding Competition. Held annually since 1966, the 58th year of the aerial event included 33 participants. A majority of them are veteran and retired pilots, who still possess the zest and thrill for adventure. But over the years, the percentage of young participants has not grown significantly, prompting these pilots to stand a little worried.

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Their entire route is 359 kilometres long, stretched across farms, lakes and country towns. Experience counts for a lot in such skilled areas but gliding experts shed light on the low participation of young people.

Need for young blood in Horsham Week

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With clear blue skies ready to greet the pilots, the gliders all took their position for flight. With their rope tied and attached to the back of a small plane, the glider is all set to take flight. For Christopher Thorpe, one of the 33 pilots, flying a 18-metre fibreglass glider is the closest experience to a plane he’ll get.

The summer heat created ideal conditions for the glider to fly through, with the help of strong thermal winds. The competition started on February 3rd and ended just two days back on Saturday, February 10th. Participants all gathered around at 1pm to take off and within an hour, the blue skies were engulfed with white shapes gliding silently. It took them a total of three hours to cover the 359 kilometres journey and reach the Horsham Aerodrome, where the final proceedings took place.

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There is always great buzz and excitement in the community during the Horsham Week but there is something that bothers everyone. The lack of participation in the event from the younger generation has forced many to worry about the future of the competition. The current rate of participation is not encouraging enough, even though there is significant progress.

“There is a junior organisation and a women’s organisation within the gliding movement in Australia. But, yes, we want more people,” said one of the pilots, Mr. Nugent. The organization and community have come together to provide youngsters with facilities and concessions that could encourage participation. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Veteran pilots have their task cut out

In order to increase the footfall of youngsters in their community, contest director Michael Durrant came up with an idea. Flying clubs around Australia were instructed to offer free training to aspiring flyers and also provide discount in obtaining gear. And unlike obtaining a pilot’s license which is a highly cumbersome process, a gliding pilot certification is far easier.

One can obtain a gliding license at the age of 15 if they pass through all the testing parameters and rank high in terms of skills. It bridges the gap between flying and its accessibility to the common people. Regarded as one of the safest modes of flying, gliding is certainly a safer alternative at high altitudes and long journeys.

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One of the main challenges is of being able to spare time. The lifestyle of families and individuals today does not allow for them to extensively explore recreational activities like these. “A lot of kids go through clubs. They usually drop out when they get married and have kids and a mortgage. But then a lot of glider pilots tend to gravitate back in after the kids have grown up and left home and the mortgage is paid off,” said one of the pilots.

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While the legacy of Horsham Week still stands unthreatened, the people at the helm of it are hopeful that their initiatives will continue to drive a positive change.

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Written by:

Allen James

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One take at a time

Hey folks! I am Allen James, and I am proudly holding court as the maestro of Viral Sports! Armed with a degree in Mass Communication, and a specialization in Journalism, my journey has been nothing short of a love story with sports. From epic showdowns that set the world on fire to heart-wrenching farewells that left us all misty-eyed, my pen has danced through the most electrifying moments. But what gets my heart racing at VSM? It?s the sheer diversity of options, a playground where no single area is off-limits! With dreams of conquering the world of sports broadcasting, I?m on a quest to explore every nook and cranny.
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Edited by:

Aakash Nair

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